I would like to know what's the meaning of "be blowed" in the following text:

'I'm going to smoke' Jenkins said; 'be blowed to Bertie dear.' (Mrs. Smythe had once addressed her husband in the office as 'Bertie dear', and thereforth that had been his name among the staff.) Richard made no answer. When a minute later Jenkins, discreetly directing his puffs to the open window, asked him for the titles of one or two of Zola's novels in English, and their price, he gave the required information without turning round and in a preoccupied tone.

A Man From North, Arnold Bennett, 1911.

  • Never heard that one, but it seems from the context that it means, basically, “I’m going to smoke, and Bertie dear can bugger off” or “I’m going to smoke whether Bertie dear likes it or not". Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 16:27
  • From the context, it is clear to me that the general sentiment is "I know Bertie said not to, but I am doing it anyway because I choose to disrespect him." In that sense it is similar to "screw him" or "he can go **** himself".
    – Hellion
    Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 16:28
  • youtube.com/watch?v=ufWdpNSs3DM From Wikipedia: "The lyric "Blow the man down" may refer to the act of knocking a man to the ground."
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 17:29
  • Arnold Bennett was definitely British. (Sorry, this was meant as a comment on Laurel's answer). Commented Oct 14, 2017 at 18:10

4 Answers 4


Looking this definition for blow in Oxford Dictionaries, it likely means damn:

(past participle blowed) [ with obj., usu. as imperative ] Brit. informal damn: "Well, blow me," he said, "I never knew that" | [ with clause ] : I'm blowed if I want to see him again.

Although the book was published in New York, it's obvious that it uses British English, as it's dedicated "to the one whom I most honour".


I think is a usage derived from the old-fashioned expression be blowed if...suggesting that you are determined to to something against the will of someone else or not caring what others may think about it.

  • If someone says that they are blowed if they will do something, they are determined not to do it:
    • I'm blowed if I'm going to pay for his taxi home.

(Cambridge Dictionary)

Blowed is the nonstandard:

  • simple past tense and past participle of blow.



Blow is used as an imprecation (often because it is less offensive than what would be considered swearing). Sense 29 from the OED provides some interesting examples:

  1. Used in imprecations: To curse, ‘confound’, ‘hang’. vulgar. (The pa. pple. is blowed.) Also with the implication of ignoring or disregarding; blow!: used absol. as an exclamation of anger or vexation; blow me tight! (cf. sense 22).

1781 G. Parker View Society & Manners I. 48 Blow me up (says he) if I have had a fellow with such rum toggys cross my company these many a day.

1819 T. Moore Tom Crib's Memorial to Congress 46 Says Bill, ‘there's nothing like a Bull: And blow me tight.’

1821 P. Egan Life in London iii. 225 Blow me tight if ever I saw such a thing in my life before.

1827 J. Wight More Mornings at Bow St. 55 Blow me if I do!

1836 Dickens Sketches by Boz 2nd Ser. 184 The said Thomas Sludberry repeated the aforesaid expression, ‘You be blowed’.

1840 F. Marryat Olla Podrida III. 20 If I do, blow me!

1859 Dickens Tale of Two Cities ii. i. 36 One blowed thing and another.

1865 Dickens Our Mutual Friend II. iv. xv. 287 Blowed if I shouldn't have left out lakes.

1871 Blackwood's Edinb. Mag. May 551/2 Oh, blow it, governor.

1881 Daily Tel. 28 Jan. ‘Isn't it rather risky?’ I asked. ‘Blow risks,’ he answered.

1882 J. A. Lees & W. J. Clutterbuck Three in Norway xxiv. 207
Retributive justice be blowed!

1922 F. Hamilton P. J.: Secret Service Boy ii. 70 I'm absolutely blowed if I know what to do.

1922 F. Hamilton P. J.: Secret Service Boy ii. 84 Oh, blow! And I go back to school in ten days.

1933 P. MacDonald Myst. Dead Police i. 6 ‘Blow me tight!’ said Sergeant Guilfoil. For things were certainly happening in Farnley.

1957 I. Cross God Boy (1958) xv. 124 Then blow me if Dr Hutchinson..didn't come padding round the post office corner.

1963 Listener 28 Mar. 540/1 It is no longer proper to use as our second national motto in education ‘Blow you, Jack, our top five per cent. are absolutely splendid’.


As per JOSH's answer, the root phrase is something like Blow me down, or I'll be blown. The origin of the phrase and usage of 'blow' seems to be the nautical term for gale and can also survives in shanties such as 'Blow the man down' where it may refer to a 'knockdown' when a ship under sail is hit by a sharp gust which fills the sails and heels it over on its beam ends. It seems likely that 'blow me tight' references the same phenomenon.

"Blow me tight if ’ere ain’t a gentleman been looking for Wallingford lock, Bill!”
Three men in a Boat Jerome K Jerome 1888

  • Largely yes and please note that 'I'll be blown' has no place here. 'I'll be blowed' is what you meant. If it has an idiomatic meaning, 'I'll be blown' refers to oral sex… Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 23:58

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